Frans Timmermans said that the motto for this work programme is “no time for business as usual”. The Commission is committed to make bold and pragmatic proposals that would allow the EU to overcome its major challenges, he added. The President Juncker’s priorities remain the right ones he said and added that the EU executive is concentrating on the big things (Investment plan, Digital Single Market, Energy Union, Capital Markets Union and so on). He continued that the single market strategy would be presented the following day, while initiatives to follow in 2015 included the Labour Mobility Package, Circular economy and Better management of the EU external borders.
He then said that there are five important issues on the 2016 work programme:
First, the European Commission will continue to prioritise the migration and refugee challenge. New measures will be presented to improve migration management both to overhaul the Dublin system of Asylum and set a new approach to legal migration. To this end a proposal on European border and coastguard would be presented by the end of the year.
Second, the European Commission will continue efforts on creating growth, jobs and investment, he said. The investment fund is now operational and is delivering high quality investments to further boost the European economy, including research. The EC will now focus on improving the investment environment and deepen the single market so that it delivers better outcomes and the right environment for innovation for SMEs and start-ups. A range of proposals would be presented to implement the Digital Single Market Strategy as well as sectoral strategies on space and defence.
Thirdly, the EU being a lead player in the Paris climate talks, the European Commission will follow up with three packages under the Energy Union. A circular economy package that maximises resource efficiency throughout the whole value chain would be presented. A new approach to ensure Europe’s economic social and environmental sustainability would also be established.
Fourthly, the European Commission wants to make 2016 be a year of real social progress. A new skills agenda will be presented to make sure that people find quality jobs in the new Digital era. The European Commission will also set out actions to give a new action to work life balance including the support of women in the workplace. The new Labour Mobility package - to be presented still in 2015 - aims to help people use the opportunities of free movement and would address the risk of social dumping. Furthermore, the 2016 European Semester will put a stronger focus on the economic and fiscal situation in the euro area and on member states’ social and economic performance. This would be complemented by the development of a European pillar of social rights, which would modernise and identify the gaps in social protection rights and also identify social benchmarks in national practices with the view to upwards convergence.
Fifthly, the European Commission will press with further progress on corporate taxation and table initiatives to enhance transparency of the corporate tax system and fight tax avoidance. An action plan for a more efficient VAT regime will also be presented.
The Commission will also continue to implement the Security Agenda and follow up on the trade and investment strategy as well as the five president’s report.
Given these challenges, it is essential that the EU budget will look at how to better target funding to priorities through the midterm review of the MFF. These challenges also show the need for an effective external dimension to deliver on EU policies. The Commission will make a substantial contribution to the new global strategy on foreign and security policy, he said.
He then continued that the European Commission has said that it will do things differently and will thus remain committed to better regulation so that a positive difference is made on the ground. In this respect, the Work programme includes the European Commission plans to review existing legislation, such as in the case of health and safety on the workplace. It also proposes the withdrawal of some initiatives that have become obsolete, have been watered down or have no chance to be adopted. The withdrawals will be enacted once the Commission has heard the Parliament views.
The Commission’s work programme reflects the Commission’s right for initiative, but all the institutions must show ownership and demonstrate that they are ready to move swiftly in an agreement to reach the EU goals. There is a very broad degree of convergence between the EP resolution and Commission Work Programmes due to the improved forms of cooperation between the institutions and hoped that a common understanding on the proposals would be pursued by co-legislators quickly.
József Szájer (EPP, HU) said that it is very important that the European Commission and the European Parliament work together on the Commission programme and priorities. The EPP group welcomes the concentration on the ten priorities of the Juncker Plan and stresses subsidiarity and proportionality principles should be respected. He added that attention must be also paid to implementation and checking the impact of red tape. He also stressed the need to align the legislation for implementing and delegated acts. The Commission should furthermore focus on the implementation of the existing legislation and simplification in cohesion and agriculture. As regards the initiatives to come, the EPP group pays particular attention to the labour package, the completion of the internal market for the energy and digital sectors, the protection of the competitiveness of the EU industry and SMEs and the establishment of a European approach to securing European external borders in the light of the refugee crisis.
Maria João Rodrigues (S&D, PT) argued that the top central priority now is to address the refugee crisis in a way that protects the Schengen Area. This requires a real asylum policy, a real European border and a real immigration policy. At the same time, the EU must return to prosperity and thus an update of the Europe 2020 strategy is needed in 2016. For the same reasons, making the best out of the investment plan and the revision of the budgetary instrument is necessary in order to deliver on the strategy in an optimal way. She regretted that there is the risk of racing to the bottom when it comes to social standards. This is the time for a strong pillar on social rights and for a new mobility package. She added that the time is also right for fairer taxation and setting the goal for upward EMU convergence. In the same vein, the Banking Union must be completed and a fiscal capacity into the Eurozone must be built. The EU also needs to have a global strategy, to lead on COP21, the implementation of the SDGs and bringing about a real partnership with Africa.
Vicky Ford (ECR, UK) stressed that the EU needs to focus its efforts on boosting economic growth and competitiveness, as well as trade and investment. She congratulated the Vice-President for listening to the ECR, in the sense that the new EU executive has cut down on new legislation, is looking whether legislation is working and examining the impact on red tape for businesses. Overall, the objective should be to keep businesses in the EU, she concluded.
Sophia in't Veld (ALDE, NL) made some brief comments over the Work Programme, welcoming the new chapters on migration and asylum, the revitalisation of the Blue Card, the proposal on work life balance and the initiatives on the external representation of the euro among others. What she thought was missing though, was the evaluation of the measures in place and their effectiveness as regards the security and counterterrorism chapter. She would also like to see a reference to the unblocking of the horizontal antidiscrimination directive and the transparency directive. Then, there is the need to elaborate on a mechanism on the enforcement of the fundamental rights, rule of law and democratic governance. On the digital agenda, she hoped that Vice-President Timmermans to not share the views of Günther Oettinger that the EU would put a fence around the European cloud and internet.
Martina Michels (GUE/NGL, DE) said that one has to look beyond the Juncker Programme. She warned against the impacts of social inequality on the society for instance. One must realise that the best European values need to be used.
Philippe Lamberts (Greens/EFA, BE) regretted that the European Commission has not been doing a lot since the start of the new mandate and referred to the ongoing worsening of social dumping between member states. Despite Luxleaks, for instance, there is not a lot going on on tax reform. He also saw no urgency from the European Commission to address social, environmental or tax dumping. “What about the deposit guarantees scheme, where the Commission has the right of initiative?” he asked. He also brought the example of the Volkswagen scandal to argue that there is lack of enforcement of EU legislation. To conclude, he called for an increase in the power and ambition of the European Commission.
David Borelli (EFDD, IT) said that it is important to learn lessons from 2015 and put together a decisive approach to monitoring crises i.e. in the Volkswagen, Greece and refugee crises. He then said that there are tree economic issues on which the EU needs to focus on the years to come; TTIP, China and EFSI. He also stressed the need to focus on important trade agreements having a long term macroeconomic impact in mind. He added that some states have produced impact assesments based on their economic needs. It is up to the Commission to look at them and produce a map regarding this impact. The principle should prevail that if one single country finds itself in a storm then it should be supported by the rest of its EU partners. No citizen should live below the poverty line. Europe should still remain committed to its fundamental values such as solidarity. He concluded that in terms of better legislation, public decision making processes should be decentralised and focus more on macro-regions while he argued in favour of regulation that better reflects the geographic diversity within economic models.
Matteo Salvini (ENF, IT) spoke about the refugee crisis and criticised the way that the EU has acted to address the issue or has not acted in the case of eliminating ISIS. He also regretted the impacts of EU trade policy on member states’ economies and was happy with the performance of eurosceptic parties in national elections.
Krisztina Morvai (NI, HU) criticised the Commission for sending the programme only 15 minutes before the meeting and for the way it handled the refugee crisis.
Please follow the link here for more information about the Commission's Work Programme 2016.
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